By Moses Akaigwe,
Experts have raised the alarm over the continued monumental damage by the poor quality of some fuels being used to power vehicles and generators in Nigeria.
They noted that about 13 million mostly old vehicles emit thick smoke on the nation’s roads, along with hundreds of thousands of inefficient generators used by households and businesses for electricity, thus polluting the environment and constituting a great danger to the lives of people.
An international resource watchdog group, Stakeholder Democracy Network, in a new report, said researchers had found fuel imported from Europe being pumped into filling stations in Nigeria as extremely toxic. They found that such fuel extremely exceeded the EU pollution limits.
The SDN’s programme manager, Florence Kayemba, said, “Our research suggests that Nigeria is having dirty fuel dumped on it that cannot be sold to other countries with higher and better implemented standards. The situation is so bad that the average diesels sampled are of even lower quality than that produced by artisanal refining camps in the creeks of the Niger Delta.”
According to the SDN, 114,000 people are estimated to be dying prematurely from air pollution each year in Nigeria.
The SDN report reinforced the Public Eye investigation and a Dutch government report that European refineries and commodity brokers are blending crude oil with benzene and other carcinogenic chemicals producing fuels hundreds of times over European pollution limits for the weakly-regulated African market. This was said to be causing significant particulate pollution, damage to vehicles and adverse health effects for the people.
Experts also referred to a new survey by some university researchers that had established a link between poor academics in childhood and air pollution exposure.
The research report of the Columbia Centre for Children’s Environmental Health published in the journal of Science Daily claimed that children exposed to elevated levels of air pollution were more likely to have poor inhibitory control during late childhood and poor academic skills in early adolescence, including spelling, reading comprehension and math skills.
According to the report, road transport is a major contributor to greenhouse gases and air pollution in developing countries.
John Walke, Director of the Clean Air Project, was quoted as saying air pollution would not only contribute to climate change, but also exacerbate by it.
“Most air pollution comes from energy use and production…Burning fossil fuels releases gases and chemicals into the air,” he said.
Global Alliance on Heath and Pollution in a report ranks Nigeria third in the world for pollution-related deaths and sixth in premature deaths caused by air pollution.
Many people in Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital, are said to be breathing polluted air leading to avoidable deaths. Indeed, a recent World Bank report estimated that air pollution caused over 11,200 premature deaths in Lagos, with children accounting for about 60 per cent.
The health cost of air pollution was put at $2.1 billion, which was about 1.3 per cent of Lagos State’s gross domestic product GDP.
The air quality in Port Harcourt, Aba, Onitsha and Kaduna is also said to have reached crisis levels of pollution in recent years, with rising cases of asthma, lung, heart and respiratory diseases.
The SDN report says the levels of particulate matter in Port Harcourt and Lagos are 20 per cent worse than Delhi in India, the most polluted capital city in the world, where emergency levels of photochemical smogs are common.
“High levels of pollution and pre-existing respiratory and other health conditions may increase the risk that COVID-19 poses to the health of the population,” said Matthew Halstead of Noctis, which conducted the laboratory research.